We try to eat healthy when we can, with the occasional indulgence in a piece of birthday cake or a slice of pizza. By now, most Americans know that sugar is the culprit when it comes to many of our health issues, including liver disease, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Most Americans get about three times the recommended amount of sugar daily. What can make it so difficult to cut down on sugar consumption is that it is lurking in so many foods that we don’t think of as sugary treats. I mean, everybody knows that a large soda or a cupcake is loaded with sugar, but what about those “sneaky” foods? Let’s look at five of the most common under-cover sugar bombs.
What may surprise you is that most of these five foods are considered healthy, especially sneaky food number one: yogurt. Did you know that some yogurts, especially the low-fat flavored kinds, can have more sugar than a Twinkie? A Twinkie! That’s a lot of sugar. Just one serving of these yogurts often contain more sugar than we need from all of our food for an entire day. That doesn’t mean you have to stop eating yogurt, which actually does have quite a few health benefits. Just stay away from the low-fat flavored kind. Instead, buy plain yogurt and then dress it up with some fresh fruit. You can even add a little honey and it will still be much healthier than the flavored variety. Cinnamon can add a bit of sweetness also.
We usually think of granola as a healthy cereal. That’s because of good advertising on the part of the companies that sell it to us. Granola is actually our sneaky food number two. It is loaded with sugar. Like flavored yogurt, a small bowl of this cereal will provide you with more sugar than your daily recommendation. If you love cereal and cereal bars, get in the habit of reading the backs of the boxes. There is cereal out there that is low in sugar and high in fiber. Find one you like, and steer clear of the granola.
Sneaky food number three: sports drinks and fruit juice. One average sized sports drink has about five teaspoons of sugar. If you think drinking something natural like orange juice would be better, think again. A glass of orange juice supplies the equivalent of ten teaspoons of sugar, the same as a can of soda. So, what do you drink when you’re feeling dehydrated from exercise or hot weather? I’m sure you know that the best thing you can drink is water, but if it is difficult for you to give up the juice or sports drinks, try cutting them with some seltzer. This can cut the sugar in half and add a little refreshing fizz.
Our sneaky food number four is salad dressing. While we all know that salad itself is very healthy (if you go heavy on the fresh veggies), you can definitely ruin that health boost by topping it off with the wrong salad dressing. Just like the yogurt mentioned earlier, you have to be especially careful of any dressing labeled as “low-fat.” Many products that take out the fat make up for it by adding extra sugar, and salad dressing is no exception to this trickery. Two tablespoons of fat-free French dressing have a whopping six grams of sugar. Stick to Italian or other oil-and-vinegar based dressings, and as always check the label before buying.
The final sneaky food on our list is the infamous ketchup. Squirting some ketchup on your burger or eggs, or using ketchup as a dip for fries can add a pretty good dose of sugar to your food. Surprisingly, one tablespoon of ketchup contains one teaspoon of sugar! It doesn’t taste all that sweet because of the acids in the tomatoes. If you can find a way to enjoy your food without ketchup, you’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Does all of this mean we have to give up sugar? Not at all. Just get used to reading labels, especially of any processed foods, and watch out for tricky names like “evaporated cane juice” and “dextrin.” These are still added sugars. One good rule of thumb is to avoid any food if a sweetener appears in one of the top three listed ingredients. There are plenty of tasty foods out there that aren’t sugar bombs. You just need to find the ones you enjoy. Have a sweet (or not so sweet) day!